Race report by Christopher Mitchell / Photos by Jeff’s Digital Photography:
On the weekend of December 4-6; over 40 drivers, including some of Australia’s fastest names converged on the Southern Districts Model Car Club (SDMCC) in Morphett Vale, South Australia to compete for the South Australian State Titles. The event was set to be re-run after the first attempt was rained out earlier this year. The weather forecast could not be any further from the first attempt, temperatures set to rise over 40 degrees celcius with winds increasing, the stage was set for some hot on track action all weekend. In practice starting Friday morning it was local ace Andrew Foord who would prove fastest on the developing track to top the time sheets in Truggy ahead of WA’s Josh Pain and SA’s Shane Hancock, and again in Buggy ahead of NSW’s Craig Laughton and ACT’s Shane Kelly.
With 2 rounds of qualifying taking place on Friday afternoon it was immediately clear that both Foord and Laughton were going to be battling all weekend long, as Laughton took wins Q1 in Truggy and Q2 in Buggy, and Foord took wins in Q1 Buggy and Q2 Truggy ending the day tied going into the next 4 rounds starting Saturday morning.
Saturday morning started with unusual warmth as the temperature was tipped to climb even higher, but all the drivers were undeterred as they began with Q3, but this time Andrew Foord showed his true hand, taking wins in both Buggy and Truggy in the next 3 rounds to lock down the overall TQ with one to spare . Opting to sit out the final Qualifier and focus on preparing his cars for the A finals on Sunday, some new challengers emerged and some other usual suspects struggled in the final qualifier as WA’s Kyle Francis took the win in Truggy and ACT’s Shane Kelly took a win in Buggy.
Sunday; finals day starting with the lower finals for Buggy, for some it was a chance to watch and see how the track was developing before the A finals, for others it was a last chance to try and bump into the main event in the afternoon. After some mechanical issues in qualifying for TLR’s Craig Laughton, he found himself having to do it the hard way in Truggy by bumping up from the B final. Laughton did bump by taking the win, joining the main field for the 45 minute A-main.
In the Buggy lower finals we saw young local fast guy Lachie Forward take the win in the B final, taking with him Simon Yeung (NSW), Nick Gwiazda (SA), Jason Lawson (SA) and Ashley Peeler (VIC) into the 45 minute Buggy A-main.
A-main time, Truggy up first, emerging from the gaggle of cars in turn 1 was top Qualifier Andrew Foord, who immediately began stretching his lead out as the ‘Shane and Shane show’ began to unfold behind him, Hancock and Kelly chasing hard while Craig Laughton capitalized on his starting position, keeping clear of the early crashes he immediately jumped into the top 5 and began his charge towards the front. Around the 12 minute mark Laughton had bought into the battle between Hancock and Kelly, as Foord seemingly slipped away into the distance, the battle was hot and alive for the remaining podium positions. Unfortunately as the race drew closer to the end Hancock’s race was cut short by servo failure with less then 15 minutes remaining. The action simmered down as Andrew Foord swept home to take the win by a 1 lap margin after 45 minutes, followed by Shane Kelly in 2nd and Craig Laughton in 3rd.
Between the A-main events, the Sportsman buggy final was run, just 20 minutes in duration the sportsman final was a chance for ‘sportsman’ level drivers who did not make the A-main to have a second chance at glory. Right from the tone South Australian local Anthony Campbell, driving a borrowed Sworkz buggy for the weekend shot to the front and remained there, even with very short fuel runs Campbell swept home to take the win by a 1 lap margin over SDMCC club president Phillip Neville in 2nd and another SA local Shane Smith in 3rd.
After another heavy drink of water (for the track) to cope with the increasingly searing heat, it was time for the 45-minute buggy A-main. From the opening lap young ace Shane Hancock shot to the lead and managed the gap out front for the first few minutes, but slowly and surely was caught by Foord, Laughton and Kelly as he was first to pit in the first 2 series of pit stops, Craig Laughton showing why he is the reigning SA state champion from 2014, as he was able to match pace with Hancock and Foord yet manage his fuel to keep going at least 2 to 4 laps further on fuel than the others out front. As Laughton took his first fuel stop he was the leader, but Foord managed the undercut to take the lead, and it was clear we were in for a long battle between Laughton and Foord for the win, as Hancock slipped further back into the clutches of Kelly to battle for 3rd. As the halfway point came and went, the battle at the front between Laughton and Foord had seemingly died off, Laughton held an advantage in the lead as he continued to go much longer on fuel, meaning Foord would have to make up the time of a whole pit stop before the finish if he were to have a chance at Laughton for the lead, and taking the Buggy title in the end. With 10 minutes to go, a few slow laps from Laughton struggling with lapping traffic had allowed Foord to close the gap, and the fight at the front was now back on for the two seasoned aces out front. The two raced hard, clean and fast, only coming together once as they wrestled their buggies around the hot and increasingly dusty track, managing the lapped traffic as best they could, but with 8 minutes to go Foord had pulled out a 7 second lead over Laughton and was looking uncatchable as Laughton seemed to struggle with traffic through the technical sections. Undeterred, Laughton mounted the challenge to try and close the gap in the last 5 minutes, putting down his fastest laps of the race as he threw everything down on track, closing the gap to as little as 2 seconds with less than 2 minutes to go, Foord responded in the dying moment, setting the fastest lap of the race with just 1 minute to go, and managed to hold out to take the win at the line by 2 seconds over Laughton. Further back, one lap down the battle was still alive kicking for 3rd as the ‘Shane and Shane show’ played again, Hancock seemed to be holding on nicely but a mistake coming on to the main straight with 4 minutes to go allowed Kelly to go through for 3rd, where he would stay as he crossed the line after time expired. Having a relatively quiet race, WA’s Kyle Francis would come home in 5th place 2 laps down on the top 4, but 2 laps ahead of Victoria’s Cameron Zammit in 6th who battled all race long to win out over Mat Schneider and Nathan Separovich by just a few seconds at the line.
As Foord and Laughton took the line, you could see the sheer relief on their faces as they were able to relax and breathe for the first time in 45 minutes, a battle that lasted so long and was fought so intensely in the searing heat, both drivers visibly exhausted. Laughton, the outgoing double champion from 2014, the first to congratulate Foord on taking the win.
The club put on a great event all weekend, and if it were not for all the dedicated club members who put their time in to prepare the track, facilities and the food for the event, would not have been half as good, especially the outstanding efforts put in by the SDMCC committee and those who came in from out of town to help run timing, commentary, technical inspection and many more jobs. As the final major 1/8 off road event for the 2015 season, all drivers now get a chance to relax over the new year before converging on the town of Devonport, Tasmania for the 2016 AKA Australian National Titles (round 1 of the 2016 Australian National Series).